Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sometimes Life Seems So Unfair

"For he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye." Zechariah 2:8

I had lunch with my friend Joy yesterday. She was telling me about another friend of hers whose husband left earlier this year. She is now raising her two young children on her own. Her husband is living it up on the beach without a care in the world.

Man, have I been there before. While life is still unfair, I think for the most part I have just accepted that fact and it doesn't bother me as much... most of the time. But there are still the times when the kids are throwing tantrums or refusing to eat or go to bed or other times when I am running around ragged from appointment to appointment when I start to feel angry again that I am the one doing everything. There are still occassional times when the thought comes to my mind, "Lord, this is so unfair!"

I imagine that Mary probably felt that way. There were two theives hanging on crosses next to her innocent son who knew no sin. The Romans who stood there watching as her son was being crucified probably just went on with their lives afterword, feeling satisfaction for what had been done. While some were celebrating victory, Mary was there grieving over the loss of her son who did nothing wrong.

And what about when Pilate asked the people if they wanted him to release Jesus or Barabbas? The people shouted Barabbas. They chose someone they knew had done wrong over an innocent Man. And Pilate, knowing Christ was innocent, washed his hands of the whole situation. So unfair.

Life is definitely unfair sometimes. I am comforted to know that my Lord can sympathize with that. He does not just sit and watch from afar. He experienced the ultimate in unfair. Hebrews 4:15 says, "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but in all points was tempted as we are, yet without sin." Christ is fully God and also fully man. He gets it.

I love Zechariah 2:8 which says, "...for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye." Thomas McComiskey explains "As the eye is extremely sensitive to touch, so God is sensitive to what threatens his people." (The Minor Prophets, vol 3 p. 1061).

When I hurt, God hurts. He understands and he knows that life seems unfair sometimes. I may not get it now but someday I will. It may have appeared unfair that Christ had to die... but Christ had to die. That was His purpose in coming to earth as a man. "For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16.

Unfair? Maybe. One day all will be right again. The old will pass away and the new will come. Until then, I just have to keep on keepin' on... keep on doin' the next thing. Because I love my kids, I'll keep going from appointment to appointment. I'll keep on learning how to love them in a way they can receive it. I'll keep on trying to figure out first grade math. I'll accept help when it comes my way and thank God for the willingness of others to love on me and my family.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Not Better, Not Worse... Just Different

Four years ago when I lost my husband, I used to think it would have been better if he had died as opposed to leaving by choice. I thought at least then, perhaps I would still be able to know that I was loved and cared for until the end. But instead not only was he gone, he also didn't care. I not only suffered loss, but rejection as well.

Although I feel like I have accepted my reality, some days it still grieves my heart.  I remember in the beginning I wished that I could just have at least one day where I didn't think about what had happened.  I have many of those days now.  But it has still changed me.  The experience has shaped who I am and will always be a part of me.

It's interesting, though because we tend to think we know so much about what would be better or what would be worse. There is a blog that I like to follow, written by a man who lost his wife and child in a tragic car accident earlier this year. The thing I like about the blog is the honesty of emotion. And I realize with each post that I read... it's not easier. She is still gone. He is still left alone in a house full of memories as God shapes his new reality as well.

Each story is unique. There's not one better. Not one worse. They're just... different. However, in the dot dot dot in between, there is the One, same Jesus. The One who is always there to care for the brokenhearted. The One who has come to make all things new. The One who will, one day, restore creation to its original state. One where there is no more pain. No more death. No more rejection and suffering. Praise be to the One who was wounded for our transgressions. The One who has special care for widows and orphans. The One, true God, our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Real Life Look at Fear

"Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you." I Peter 5:7

I don't normally do this but I was writing in my journal tonight and just felt like I should type it out exactly as I had written it down. I do pull a lot of my blog content from my random ponderings in my journal but I have never actually written word for word from my journal. Be forewarned that my mind did get distracted a bit as I was writing.

Lord, the more I learn about current events, the more afraid I am. I feel like we are seeing the end times described in the Bible. And now with this Occupy Wall Street and Obamacare and everything else that leans on making us more dependant on the government, it just makes me nervous. I don't want to live in a world controlled by the government.

Ugh. I wish these dumb dogs would quit barking. Ever since the people moved in across the street, their dogs bark constantly.

Anyway, I guess that was a good distraction. Lord, help me not to live in fear. Help me to realize my strength in You and that I don't need to be dependant on a man to keep me safe...

Grr! These dogs! I feel like Elaine on Seinfeld.

I guess the thing I'm most afraid of is that conditions here in the U.S. will become like those in other countries where there is no freedom. Where people are put to death for their faith.

Lord, I am looking forward to Your return to be free from this. I think, "Well You will come back before it gets to that point," but it already is to that point in other countries. They are already having to endure this stuff and are already being persecuted for their faith.

Lord, give me this day my daily bread. Today really does have enough trouble of its own. What if You did come back tomorrow and I spent all of my time worrying about a future... a future that never comes? What a waste. Lord, You have met all of my needs today. Thank you. I pray that if the worst thing I could imagine does actually happen in this country, that a ram would also be making its way up the other side of the mountain in the form of Strength, Courage, Provision and a Peace that passes all understanding. You are all of those things, Lord.

It helps to write through these things. Thank You, Lord for reminding me who You are.

P.S... In case you were wondering, those dogs across the street are still barking! (-;

Monday, October 17, 2011

Is it Okay for Christians to be Angry?

"Be ye angry and sin not; let not the sun go down upon your wrath. Neither give place to the devil." Ephesians 4:26-27

Twice in the last week I've heard Christians reference not allowing themselves to be angry lest the devil get a foothold.

Really? Don't be angry? Think happy thoughts? This type of thinking has been referred to as Pollyanna thinking. I don't think that is what Paul is saying in Ephesians.

If we say, "I am not going to let myself be angry over this," does the anger magically just go away? Is life suddenly daisies and roses? I don't think so. What has happened is that the anger has simply been masked.

If you stand next to someone who hasn't showered in weeks, you are certain to notice an odor. The solution isn't to just ignore the smell or douse on some perfume. In the same way, that just masks the underlying problem that is still there. The solution is to wash and be clean, thus dealing with the root of the problem.

When Paul tells the Ephesians to be ye angry and sin not, he is speaking about taking off the old self and putting on the new. Be ye angry is part of putting on the new. Be ye angry.... and sin not. We must deal with our anger. We are not to mask it, pretend it's not there, or act out in toxic ways. All of these may lead to sin. Being angry is not the sin. We sin when we act out in anger because we have failed to deal with it properly.

So what should we do with our anger? I believe we should confess it to God.

Lord, I am angry...

This is why I am angry...

This is what I want to do with my anger...

Reveal to me the root of my anger and help me to deal with this. Lord, help me to be ye angry and sin not. I don't want my anger to give place to the devil so I am confessing it to you. Lead me in the way everlasting.

The Lord has already promised that anything we ask in His name he will do. He wants to help us work through the process. It may be painful but it will be worth it. And on the other side is victory and a testimony. The question now is which pain is worse? The pain of change or the pain of staying the same?

It's okay to be angry. Just don't let it build and fester and give room for the devil to come in. Deal with it and allow God to deal with you.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Plank Eye

"And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?" Matthew 7:3

Have you ever been really mad about something that when looking back on it, really wasn't that big of a deal?

Is there someone in your life whose actions just drive you insane day in and day out?

Do you ever tend to overreact to things and say things in the heat of the moment that later, you wish you could take back?

Yeah, me too.

I have come to experience that God is gracious. I've learned that when there are situations when the reaction doesn't always necessarily fit the circumstance, at least not to the degree that I am reacting to it, there is usually something going on in the hidden places deep in my soul. Things that I don't realize.

I think God allows us to see specks in one another's eyes in order to illuminate the planks in our own eyes. The thing is, many times we don't understand that and react to the speck when really, God is using the speck to reveal the plank. So maybe it would be beneficial to take a step back upon encountering the specks and ask God to reveal our own planks.

If you think in literal terms, it makes sense that it would be difficult to see our own planks without help. Planks can be very painful. No wonder we would prefer to focus on the speck. You can blink and move your eyelid around to remove a speck. But a plank? Ouch.

Rather than yanking the plank out, the Lord, in His mercy, reveals them to us instead, in order that we would see them and relinquish them to Him. He won victory over our planks when he hung on a "plank" and declared, "It is finished." God always illuminates. Lord, give me eyes to see.

Next time you find yourself overly emotional or utterly annoyed, take a "time out" before reacting and ask God if there is a plank that he is trying to reveal and if so, that you would have eyes to see it and strength to endure the pain of exposure as well as plank removal.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Narcissistic Christian

"Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise thee." Psalm 63:3

I was reading an article on narcissism the other day and found it interesting that as a child, often times the narcissist was highly praised for his or her achievements. Because of his talents or giftedness, he was admired. As a child, he began to sense that he was not loved for who he is but for what he does. Therefore, he became highly concerned about his image. In essence, he became a human doing rather than a human being.

Isn't that what we as a society have reduced God to these days? We live focusing on what God is going to do rather than who God is. Or additionally, what we can do for God rather than who we are in Christ. Have we allowed ourselves to become narcissistic Christians?

Lord, my lips will praise You because of who you are. I am incredibly thankful for what you have done for me and the grace and mercy you display every day because of who You are. Thank you for your lovingkindness. Thank you for loving me in spite of myself. It's because of Your love that I live and move and breathe. My prayer is for more of You and You alone in a world and a nature that tries to convince me that it's all about me.

Friday, August 26, 2011


"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father." John 14:12

The other day I wrote a post called More Than I Can Handle. Since then, I've been thinking, "Sure, it's easy for me to write something like that. I am not dealing with anything right now that feels like more than I can handle."

Within the past week or so, I have heard several stories of unthinkable sadness, devestation, and just utter heart brokenness. People who are facing things that are even more than I can comprehend and don't even want to.

And I think, "How do you explain something like that?" How do you explain a fifteen year old girl learning that she has less than a year to live after being diagnosed with a rare and untreatable form of cancer? How do you explain an eighteen year old boy laying in a hospital bed in a coma after having a massive stroke? Why? And where is God in all of this?

Why? The answer is simple and profound: I don't know and I don't understand. There are no answers to that question on this side of Heaven. We can speculate, but only God truly knows.

So where is God in all of this? He is in the heart of the neighbor who goes next door to comfort a devestated mother after she received heartbreaking news. He is in the hands and feet of a group of students sitting in the hospital room of a young man who doesn't even know they are there. He is there at the front door, holding a casserole dish just to help relieve one burden of the day.

There is a song by Mandisa titled, "He Is With You." I'd like to end with the lyrics from her song.

There's a time to live
And a time to die
There's a time to laugh
And a time to cry

There's a time for war
And a time for peace
There's a hand to hold
In the worst of things
In the worst of things

He is with you when your faith is dead
And you can't even get out of bed
Or your husband doesn't kiss you anymore
He is with you when your baby's gone
And your house is still
And your hearts are stone
Crying, "God what'd you do that for?"
He is with you

There's a time for yes
And a time for no
There's a time to be angry
And a time to let it go
There's a time to run
And a time to face it
There's love to seek
In all of this
Through all of this

He is with you in the conference room
When the world is coming down on you
And your wife and kids don't know you anymore
And he is with you in the ICU when the doctors don't know what to do
And it scares you to the core
He is with you

We may weep for a time but joy will come in the morning
The morning light

He is with you when your kids are grown
When there's too much space and you feel alone
And you're worried if you got it right or wrong
He is with you when you've given up on ever finding your true love
Someone who feels like home
He is with you

When nothing else is left and you take your final breath
He is with you

He is with you

Thursday, August 18, 2011

More Than I Can Handle

"Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved." Psalm 55:22

I've heard well meaning Christian friends say before, "God will never give you more than you can handle." In fact, I've even made that statement, myself and believed it to be true. However.

What about that babies who lay in cribs alone and untouched in orphanages all around the world? Studies have shown that we all need physical touch in order to live and thrive. Is the saying still true in this instance that God will not give us more than we can handle?

What about the couple who waited fifteen years to finally have a baby, only to be hit by a car while driving one day and the wife and unborn child pass away just weeks before her due date? Is the saying still true then?

What about the man who lost all of his children as well as his livestock, his health and the support of his friends and his wife. Is that something any human being can possible handle?

All of these things are more than any of us could handle. But there is One who is able to supply all of your need according to His riches. He has a very special place in His heart for widows and orphans. And He knows me as well, and He calls me daughter.

The question is... do you know Him? We may be able to get by during many trials on our own strength for a time. But eventually, our own strength will run out. We will become defeated, angry, and maybe even hopeless.

In order to be able to stand when the stormy trials of life come, we must be standing on the Rock which cannot be moved. Without a firm foundation on which to stand, a house will fall. Remember that old song? "The rains came down and the floods came up... and the house on the sand went splat!"

Oswald Chambers once said, "You have no idea where God is going to engineer your circumstances, no knowledge of what strain is going to be put on you either at home or abroad, and if you waste your time in overactive energies instead of getting into soak on the great fundamental truths of God's Redemption, you will snap on the great fundamental truths of God's Redemption... you will snap when the strain comes; but if this time of soaking before God is being spent in getting rooted and grounded in God on the unpractical line, you will remain true to Him whatever happens."

So now I will say, "God will never give me anything that HE can't handle." I may not know why I must endure. Sometimes life seems so unfair and doesn't make any sense at all. Even then, I will cling to the Source of my strength... Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Baby Steps

"...let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us..." Hebrews 12:1

At the beginning of June, my son had surgery and was in the hospital for several days. And my schedule got messed up. My sleeping was off... my eating was off... my energy was off. And so the slippery slope began.

Prior to that week, I had been fully on the wagon. Each morning I woke up and I spent some time with God through a daily devotional. Not because it was routine or because I felt like that was what a "good" Christian should do, but because I really wanted to. Each night after the kids went to bed, I worked on my Bible study for my Sunday School class. God and I had candid conversations throughout the day.

And then I fell off the wagon. It was just a few days missed at first. I was tired and overwhelmed. I don't normally watch a lot of television but there were a few interesting looking summer shows beginning. It was easier to just veg on the couch and relax. There went my nightly Bible study. And the shows would keep me up later at night, making it more difficult to wake up early in the morning to do my morning devotional. God and I were still having conversations throughout the day, but without that daily time in the Word, I just felt... blah. And feeling blah leads to more vegging on the couch doing nothing.

Something had to change. I didn't like the way I was feeling and I missed the daily study. But I had a hard time getting back into it. The natural tendency of the human heart is to pull away from God and towards having our own way. But at the same time, we were made for worship. I could feel that internal struggle there. I had two choices. Either I could beat myself up and wallow in my failure to stay on the wagon in the first place, or I could get up, move forward, and get back in the race.

It seems strange, but the thing that helped me get one foot back on the wagon actually came in the form of a small little black device that I wear on my foot each day. You see, we have a wellness program at work and they have recently launched a new walking program. It includes a high tech quarter-sized tracker worn on the shoe. The tracker counts each step, as well as the pace, time of day, etc and then offloads the information to a customized website anytime the wearer passes an access point. Each day I can check my steps and see how I'm doing.

When I first started wearing the tracker, I was averaging about 5,500 steps per day. After that time, the kids were gone for a couple of weeks which allowed me to walk more. During that time, I averaged 8,500 - 9,500 steps per day. I wanted to use that time to help myself get motivated and realized that I really enjoy walking. It's more difficult now that they are home but I am still averaging 6,500 - 7,000 per day because I have been making a more conscious effort. I go for a walk on my lunch breaks now and I also park twice as far away as I used to at work each morning. That's it. As time goes on, I hope to increase my steps even more. Ideally, I would like to be at 10,000 steps per day. But for the moment being, I am starting slow.

What does that have to do with my daily time with God? Everything. I realized with walking, that if I can start with baby steps, it is easier to keep up with it and I really enjoy myself. Had I started with a goal of doubling my steps each day, it would have felt like a chore and I would have quickly burned out. Patient endurance.

The same is true with Bible study. I don't want to read God's Word out of obligation but with a cheerful heart. This week I am starting with baby steps to get back to where I used to be. I have decided to go to bed an hour earlier each night so that I can wake up 15 minutes earlier and spend some time with God before I start the day. So far so good. This morning I read a very interesting portion of scripture in Jeremiah. As I was reading, I actually wished I had woken up even a few minutes earlier because it was really interesting.

There is no hurry because as I run this race, I am gaining the prize along the way. I Corinthians 9:24 doesn't say the prize is found only at the end. I think it is found on the journey. The tortoise completed the race because he went at his own slow pace. His intent was not to get to the finish line first, but to run the race with patient endurance. And guess what? He did end up winning the race anyway because his focus was the prize.

Wouldn't you know that today after I had started writing about this, I went outside for my afternoon walk and it was starting to rain. It would have been easy for me to turn around and go back inside. Instead I grabbed my umbrella. The thing is, I'm certain there will be many more obstacles along the way and it's highly likely that I will begin to slip from the wagon again at some point. That's life. But one thing I'm certain of... the only way to finish a race is to start it.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


"...if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." Luke 19:40

As intelligent human beings on this earth, we have been able to figure a lot of things out and it seems the age of technology has moved forward at warp speed. I remember as a kid having to get up to change the channel on the television or adjust the antenna on top to get a clear picture. I remember rotary phones. I remember when my family first got a computer. I used it mostly to play games. What else could a teenage girl do with a computer before the world wide web? I remember my first cell phone. It was so big that I could barely fit it into my backpack alongside my college textbooks. I remember my first bank job. We only had one shared computer behind the teller line and we processed transactions on a large glorified calculator called a Sharp machine. Debit cards were first introduced during my banking days. All this and I am only 35 years old. Those older than me might say, "I remember when TV was in black and white." Or even, "I remember when we didn't even have a TV." Or maybe, "I remember back when I had to walk to work uphill, both ways, in the snow."

How is it that our world has become so technologically advanced in such a relatively short amount of time? Technology is a great thing. I love it that I can just jump on my computer and pretty much figure out anything I ever wanted to know. I also read that Google is even in the process of developing and testing a car that can drive itself! But at the same time, the more we figure out how to do on our own, the less dependent on God and the more desensitized we can become if we're not careful. Dr. Bob Jones Sr once said, "The devil did not tempt Adam and Eve to steal, to lie, to kill, to commit adultery; he tempted them to live independently from God."

I was thinking the other day about all of the natural disasters that have happened in the past several years. There have been tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes and other events for ages, but they seem to be increasing in frequency and intensity. Perhaps, thanks to technology, natural events like these are more widely reported and broadcast around the globe. Perhaps I haven't been alive long enough to see a more complete picture.

I see two things happening. As a civilization, we are becoming more advanced and able to rely on our own ingenuity and becoming less dependent on God. And the earth is crying out. In a time of religious "tolerance," Jehovah God is just one of many acceptable ways. The earth is crying out. God will not be mocked. The world is more advanced than ever before, but God still has the final say.

The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:1-5, " the last days... people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self control, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God - having a form of godliness but denying its power." The Bible also talks about increased earthquakes and natural disasters in the last days. I just wonder if the two are related. If... then.

We have two choices.

Choice #1: "If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will heal from heaven, and I will forgive their sins and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14

Romans 14:11 says, "... every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God." Every knee. Every tongue. If we neglect choice number one to humble ourselves, then we will be humbled.

Choice #2: "He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna... to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord."

"If my people... will humble themselves... then I will..." (emphasis mine)

"...if they keep quiet, [then] the stones will cry out." (emphasis mine)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

It Needed to Happen

"And the child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. So she called his name Moses, saying 'Because I drew him out of the water.'" Exodus 2:10

How difficult it must have been for Moses' mother to let him go. Not once, but twice. The first time, she placed him in a basket and set him among the reeds of the river bank. She didn't know what would happen to him. She only knew that if she didn't do it, he would be killed. How difficult it must have been as her hands left the handmade basket and her infant son began to drift in the water.

She must have sensed God's protection when he was discovered and given back to her to nurse until he was a bit older. I wonder if that protection from the hand of God gave her comfort when she had to let him go a second time. This time she had to let him go directly into the palace of Pharaoh... the same one who had given the order to kill him when he was just a babe. As a mother, it must have been a very difficult thing to do. Not only losing her son, but sending him off to a place where he would not be raised in the same way that she would have raised him herself. Raised in a place that had rejected God. Would the king discover Moses' true identity and kill him? So many things must have been going through her head.

I see things happening around me now and wish I could do something to change them. Loved ones I wish I could shake some sense into. Friends making unwise choices. Family members choosing paths far from God. There have been times when I've had the opportunity to talk to friends I love and offer a more distanced perspective, however sometimes it seems to fall on deaf ears. What's left is just time spent watching people I care about head down a path of pain, sorrow, or destruction. It's difficult to watch being powerless to change anything.

Then I think about Moses. God intended for him to be raised in the palace of Pharaoh. It was there that he developed a passion for seeing the Israelites, God's people, escape from Egyptian persecution. That passion became his purpose as God used him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and towards the Promised Land.

I think of my own life over the past several years. There were circumstances that I had to endure that were more painful than any other in my past. However, I do believe they served a purpose and looking back, I am thankful that the Lord did not spare me from the pain. If it hadn't been for the pain, there are so many things that I would not have learned. My own personal trauma shaped my future and became my testimony.

Lord, I pray that you would do the same for my friend... two friends in particular. I also pray for two other family members specifically that you would give them eyes to see and ears to hear. I pray that you would use their circumstances past and present to shape their future and change them into Your image. Amen.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

My Utmost... the end

Tonight I will finish the "My Utmost..." series with some final thoughts from David McCasland's book, Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God.

  • "Probably the most lasting of all preaching is with the pen." Reader Harris

  • "Let not your heart be troubled. It's all right, you can't understand God's ways but get down into His love. Don't lose your grip. Be radiant for Him." Oswald Chambers in a vision.

  • After Oswald's death, his wife, Biddy complied all of her shorthand notes of his lectures and put them into book form (including the famous My Utmost For His Highest). The books were in great demand and Biddy stored 40,000 copies of them in a warehouse. "Six months before, Biddy and the book committee had decided, after lengthy discussion, that in accordance with the teaching in the books, the stock should not be insured. If a fire should occur at Simpkins, no claim would be made." Earlier it says that "the entire stock was destroyed by [a] blaze that raged out of control for two days...

  • ...In her typical way, Biddy remained unperturbed. When news came of the burned books, she put down her teacup, turned to Kathleen (their daughter) and said calmly, "Well, God has used the books for His glory, but not that is over. We'll wait and see what God will do now." As the bombs continued to rain in London, she found strength through quietness and confidence in the Almighty. God was in control, and He would make His way plain.

  • One of Oswald's abiding concerns had been to heed God's ruling and never keep an enterprise going just because it was going well. Oswald had often said, "When God finishes something, it must be finished."

Oswald Chambers:
Abandoned to God

The Life Story of the Author of
My Utmost for His Highest

David McCasland

Discovery House Publishers

Sunday, May 22, 2011

My Utmost... Part 8

The following are excerpts I would like to highlight from the book Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God by David McCasland.

  • "Jesus Christ did not say: You will understand why the war has come - but: Do not be scared, do not be put in a panic."

  • "There is one thing worse than war, and that is sin. We get tremendously scared when our social order is broken up, and well we may. We get terrorized by hundreds of men being killed, but we forget there is something worse - sinful dastardly lives being lived day by day, year in and year out in our villages and towns... these are the things that produce pain in the heart of God, not the wars and the devestation that so upset us."

  • What we are is of much more use to God and our fellows than what we do.

  • "We are not called to be successful in accordance wtih ordinary standards, but in accordance with a corn of wheat falling into the ground and dying, becoming in that way what it never could be if it were to abide alone."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My Utmost... Part 7

Continued meaningful excerpts from Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God by David McCasland.

  • [Speaking to a class at the Bible Training College] "All of you have intelligence," he told each class at the first meeting. "You have a marvellous, God-given capacity to reason and think... and you must use it for God."

  • "The reason why the average Christian worker is only the average Christian worker is that he or she will remain grossly ignorant about what he does not see any need for. The majority of us have been brought up on 'spooned meat.'" He continued, "We will only take the truths we see immediate practical use for, consequently the average Christian worker knows nothing about Bible Theology or Bible Psychology, and cannot therefore push the battle for God on any of those domains." Chambers stressed that an active mind was essential to a vital spiritual experience.

  • [Class tought by Chambers] Biblical Psychology: The Bible description and explanation of ourselves, as we are, and as we ought to be, and can be. (I am reading this book now in the Complete Works of Oswald Chambers. I love psychology anyway, so it's very interesting and insightful to me).

  • "The great enemy to the Lord Jesus Christ in the present day is the conception of practical work that has not come from the New Testament, but from the systems of the world in which endless energy and activities are insisted upon, but no private life with God."

  • "It is not its practical activities that are the strength of this Bible Training College, its whole strength lies in the fact that here you are put into soak before God. You have no idea of where God is going to engineer your circumstances, no knowledge of what strain is going to be put on you either at home or abroad, and if you waste your time in overactive energies instead of getting into soak on the great fundamental truths of God's Redemption, you will snap on the great fundamental truths of God's Redemption, you will snap when the strain comes; but if this time of soaking before God is being spent in getting rooted and grounded in God on the unpractical line, you will remain true to Him whatever happens."

That last one is excellent. One of my favorite excerpts from the entire book. I hate to have to return this book but am glad to have these excerpts to keep with me.

Monday, May 16, 2011

My Utmost... Part 6

I said the other day that I could write an entire post on one thought from Oswald Chambers in the book Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God by David McCasland but so far I don't have the complete thought. So I will continue with the mentioned excerpt, along with others that taught me something or had some sort of special meaning.

  • There seems to me a strange lack of understanding of the supreme nobility of man viz. that of a character produced by realizing one's responsibility to God. Self-realization or self-annihilation seems the utmost reach of these great novelist. The Bible not of the realization of another self in life, that other self being God, is completely undetected.

  • "Let a teacher once get the set of the people off our Lord Jesus Christ to any sign or manifestations or power and he is deserving in this day of as severe and drastic rebuke as Peter gave Simon Magus (Acts 8:23). Character, not anything less, is the result and immediate stamp of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit and Fire."

  • God is not a fact of common sense but of revelation. God lives - evidenced to your heart when you abandoned your right to yourself and let Him take the rule.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What Would You Erase?

"...but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverence; and perseverence, character; and character, hope..." Romans 5:3-4

I heard a really good illustration today at church and wanted to share. It's from an article by John Ortberg titled "Don't Waste a Crisis." He wrote:

Imagine you're handed a script of your newborn baby's entire life. Better yet, you're given an eraser and five minutes to edit out whatever you want. You read that she will have a learning disability in grade school. Reading, which comes easily for some kids, will be laborious for her. In high school, she will make a great circle of friends, then one of them will die of cancer. After high school, she will get into her preferred college, but while there, she'll lose a leg in a car crash. Following that, she will go through a difficult depression. A few years later she'll get a great job, then lose that job in an economic downturn. She'll get married, but then go through the grief of separation.

With this script of your child's life before you and five minutes to edit, what would you erase?

Wow. The answers seem obvious and without the knowledge of a God who can see the bigger picture and the perseverance, character and hope being worked through each circumstance to draw this child to himself... I might choose to erase many or all of those trials. But to erase any part of the events above, might just take away the need for dependence on God and instead we may begin to rely on our own strength.

What would I erase? I might erase the day that my Grandma Neva was diagnosed with ALS. She wouldn't pass away a week before I was born. My mom would not be grieving the loss of her mother on the day she gave birth to me... my grandmother's first grandchild. I would get a chance to meet my Grandma Neva, who many people say I am a lot like.

I might erase the traumatic memories and images that remain with my dad and so many others who served in Vietnam to this day. I would erase the day he returned and the people spit in his face and called him a baby killer.

I might erase second grade when I never said a word to my teacher the entire year because I was afraid of her. I might erase all the comments highlighting how shy I was that lasted for many, many years.

I might erase June 4, 1995 when a masked gunman entered the bank where I was working and demanded money. I might erase the nightmares I had for years afterward.

I might erase the three and a half years I dated a guy who was not a Christian and was not always very nice to me. I would erase the fear in myself that put up with it.

I might erase my wedding day. I might erase the day it ended and all of the days in between.

I might erase the 22nd chromosome of my son who is missing genetic information that causes him to have severe developmental delays and replace it with one that is complete.

I might erase the time my youngest son had to spend in the NICU after he was born, hooked up to all kinds of tubes and wires as he battled a collapsed lung.

There are so many things I might erase. But the thing is, if I erased any of those things, I would not be person I am today. I don't know why I had to go through some of those things. I don't know why my family had to go through some of those things. For many of them, I may never know. But I do know that God has done an amazing work in my life. He has brought me to the realization that without Him, I could do nothing. The Lord gives and He takes away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord. And the thing is, God does have a script of our lives and He leaves a lot of junk in there. He doesn't erase it because the junk serves a purpose.

Despite all of the trials and trauma along the way, I would not trade for one minute who I am now for who I was then. Not one minute. I wish I didn't have to experience the pain but as Beth Moore said, "The purpose exceeds the pain."

He doesn't waste it either. I'll end with a quote I read earlier today by Julie Gillies:

Our past is not a bashing tool in the enemy's hand. Our unique experiences, coupled with God's healing power and grace, equip us to minister God's comfort, truth, and healing to others who have experienced the same wounds. God never wastes our pain.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My Utmost... Part 5

Continued excerpts from Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God by David McCasland.

  • With all his emphasis on truth, Oswald was never content to affect the mind alone. His goal was to stir the will to act on sound principles of Scripture, so that people might demonstrate the love of Christ.

  • [In a letter written to a friend] 'Go with Him all the way." The end and aim and meaning of all sanctification is personal, passionate devotion to Jesus Christ. Keep bold and clear and out in the bracing facts of his revelation world, the Bible. Never compromise with those who water down the word of God to human experience, instead of allowing God to life up our experience to His Word.

  • One of the blessed things about this life is that a man carries his kingdom on the inside, and that makes the outside lovely.

This one I'll keep short and sweet because the next page that I had earmarked in the book to save can take up an entire post in itself. Very interesting.

It's funny because a woman from work loaned me this book after she saw that I had a quote by Oswald Chambers on my business instant messenger. It was a really good book to read. Some parts of the book my mind sort of glossed over but I try to just let it go when that happens. I believe the Lord will allow me to grasp what I'm supposed to grasp. The same when I read my Bible. It's good to read many times because each time reading produces a new thought or understanding.

Anyhow, after I finished the biography on Chambers, I told her how much I enjoyed reading it. To which she revealed to me that she had a book that contained the entire works of Oswald Chambers! She warned me ahead of time that it probably weighs 65 pounds! And she wasn't kidding. It's not something you would want to drop on your pinkie toe.

So until tomorrow...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My Utmost... Part 4

Yesterday I shared a poem written by Oswald Chambers and shared in the book Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God by David McCasland. He wrote after his 8 year relationship came to an end with a girl named Crissie. He talked about how no other trial in life helped him to see Christ more than the end of an earthly relationship that he had cherished.

I'll continue with an excerpt from the book of a new awareness that gripped him:

If Oswald hoped that by relinquishing his fondest loves only his love for Christ would remain, he was deeply disappointed. He had won a costly victory, but the war was not over. He longed for peace in his soul, but found only turmoil inside and out. God's gifts of keen intellect and handsome appearance seemed to work against him. When a young woman in a local church accused Chambers of misconduct with her, it seemed to be more than he could bear. There was no truth to her story and an investigation vindicated Oswald, but the damage had been done. Slander and all kinds followed the episode. He was misunderstood, shunned, avoided, and became the object of whispers throughout Dunoon.

More than causing damage to Oswald's reputation, the charge had heightened his own awareness of what lay within him.

"What any human being has done," he had heard a preacher say, "any other human being is capable of." [italics mine]. He had not sinned sexually with the girl, but he know he could have. The disturbing realization of what he was capable of thinking and doing began to oppress Oswald's mind.

He became aware of an abhorrent dualism in his personality. The sham and hypocrisy he detested in others had a foothold in his own heart. He could proclaim that God must be given glory for all his good works, but he enjoyed the praise of men. While many people in Dunoon thought he was a near-perfect saint, he knew the truth about himself. Within him lurked a frightening pride that was beyond his power to conquer.

I had not fully considered the depths of my own heart before. And how timely that my Sunday School class at church is doing a study by Jim Berg called Changed Into His Image. We have been discussing this thought at length in the past several weeks. What we can sometimes so easily see in others, is much more difficult to see in ourselves. But the exaggerated reactions I have towards the sin of others, may just as easily be found in my own heart in a different form. It helps me to be less judgemental but instead pray for a contrite spirit in myself and others that desires repentance. A prayer not for my own will, but His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

As long as we live on this earth, we will continue to have a sin nature. We will continue to fail. But that is not the end of it. Although there are none righteous, no not one, praise God that He has conquered sin and death so that I no longer have to live in bondage to my sinful nature unless I choose to do so.

We may see despicable things that other people do and say "I can't believe he/she would do something like that..." But the truth is, just like Oswald Chambers learned, "What any human being has done... any other human being is capable of." Therefore it's important to get to know myself and know the secret areas of my soul that are vulnerable to temptation and ask the Lord to lead me.

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139: 23-24

Monday, May 9, 2011

My Utmost... Part 3

Today continues excerpts from the book Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God by David McCasland.

I'll pick up with a poem written by Chambers after an 8 year relationship ended.


(Kirn, January 22, 1900)

O my beloved Jesus! Not Thy cross

Nor any portion of Thine earthly life

Revealed Thy love to me.

But when my heart broke in its first true love,

And all my feelings like a lash of pain

Recoiled and stung me, till my tortured nerves

Refused to aid my spirit -

Then, in that pain, I saw Thee, O my Christ!

And that my first love, which so hopeless seemed,

Was after all for Thee disguised indeed.

But I mistook the form assumed by Thee,

And now I love Thee, Jesus, with the love

That lovers think they have for those they love.

O rapture! where there was such pain before.

I love that because I can understand the depths and also the insight and understanding that was beginning to open up to him. I have never been so broken as when relationships I cherished came to an end. It was in those times that I was broken enough to be filled. To realize that what I thought was love was not as pure as I imagined in that I was looking to fill a need of my own and not fully able to truly see or love another.

I started to understand this in pieces after the most significant relationship in my life came to an end. But I began to stall out and could go no further. I didn't feel broken over it anymore, which I thought meant I was ready to date again. A dear friend of mine prayed that I would meet someone if that was what I needed. I excitedly hoped that meant that I would meet someone because that was what I needed. And I did. I thought that was the answered prayer. I was very confused when it ended after just a short time because I was mistaken about God's answer. It wasn't the beginning that I needed. It was the end.

Then in that pain, I saw Thee, O my Christ!

And that my first love, which so hopeless seemed,

Was after all for Thee disguised indeed.

But I mistook the form assumed by Thee,

And now I love Thee, Jesus, with the love

That lovers think they have for those they love.

If Oswald hoped that by relinquishing his fondest loves only his love for Christ would remain, he was deeply disappointed. He had won a costly victory, but the war was not over.

More tomorrow... I can relate now to the things he was beginning to discover. It is so timely.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Temporary Home

"And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you strong, firm and steadfast." I Peter 5:10

I mentioned recently that I've been doing some dream work lately. I believe that God speaks some incredible truths to us through dreams if we are willing to take the time to learn to understand them. Something in my dreams clicked for me recently. I have recurring dreams about hotels.

To dream of a house symbolizes where you live... i.e. you. Different parts of the house symbolize different aspects of the personality, etc. I sometimes dream about houses, but more often I dream about being in a hotel. I couldn't understand what that meant. Why am I living in a hotel rather than in my own house? Did it mean that I was out of touch with who I am? That I am out of touch with reality? I didn't understand.

And then it clicked. A hotel is not home. It is a temporary home. I may be experiencing trials. I may feel hurt... pain.. rejection... deep sadness. But God reminds me while life may be incredibly painful at times, and the hurt and sadness feel too much to bear... it is only my temporary home. It will not always be that way. After I have suffered a little while, He Himself will restore me strong, firm, and steadfast. It often feels like it will last forever. But God promises that it won't. It is only our temporary home.

Temporary Home
by Carrie Underwood

Little boy, six years old
A little too used to bein' alone
Another new mom and dad. Another new school,
Another house that'll never be home.
When people ask him how he likes this place...
He looks up and says, with a smile upon his face,

"This is my temporary home
It's not where I belong.
Windows and rooms that I'm passin' through.
This is just a stop on the way to where I'm goin'
I'm not afraid because I know
This is my temporary home."

Young mom on her own.
She needs a little help, got nowhere to go.
She's lookin' for a job, lookin' for a way out,
Because a half-way house will never be a home.
At night she whispers to her baby girl,
"Someday we'll find our place here in this world."

"This is our temporary home.
It's not where we belong.
Windows and rooms that we're passin' through.
This was just a stop on the way to where we're goin'.
I'm not afraid because I know
This is our temporary home."

Old man, hospital bed.
The room is filled with people he loves.
And he whispers don't cry for me,
I'll see you all someday.
He looks up and says, "I can see God's face."

"This is my temporary home.
It's not where I belong.
Windows and rooms that I'm passin' through.
This was just a stop on the way to where I'm going.
I'm not afraid because I know... this was
My Temporary Home.

This is our temporary home.

Monday, May 2, 2011

No, Not One

"As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one." Romans 3:10

I heard on the radio this morning that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. My first thought was that I didn't know if I believed it was true. And then I got to work and saw the news broadcasts all day long since we have TVs around the office. As I saw people cheering and celebrating, it just really made me sad. I think our troops deserve honor for fulfilling their call of duty. I believe that an evil person got what he deserved as justice was served. I believe that I deserve the same justice as he received and am eternally thankful that I serve a God who sent His Son to die in my place so that I don't have to receive what I deserve. Because of that, I will rejoice in my salvation but not in another's eternal separation from God.

A friend of mine sent me an article she read today. I wish I knew who wrote it because I would love to give them credit. For now, I'll just post it as anonymous. Here is an excerpt:

There is no doubt that Osama Bin Laden's life was marked by heinour action and unspeakable terror. It is a tragedy that so many innocent lives were lost by the hate in that man's heart. And it is a tragedy as well that any man had to live his life engulfed in that same hate.

But today I awoke to a new tragedy. As I read the celebratory response to Bin Laden's death by Christians whom I love and respect, I grew sick to my stomach. Then dismayed. Then angry.

After all, we Christians are the ones who spend our lives purveying the the good news that we are graciously spared from being treated as our sins deserve. I find it ironic at best, that we - as recipients of such undeserved grace - are the very ones parading in the streets that this "** finally got what he deserved." If you're offended by the language, be more offended by the hypocrisy.

The terrifying-to-face truth of Scripture is that the very root of sin that drove Osama Bin Laden to kill thousands of people is [in] my heart, too. If we lose touch with that - if we somehow think ourselves as less debased in the height of our own sin - then we've lose touch with the Christian story and the very need for a Savior in the first place.

Perhaps even more shocking is the image of our Abba Father lovingly knitting together Osama Bin Laden in his mother's womb. It is an affront to consider Bin Laden to be made in the imago dei. But then again, the Bible is an affront. To be clear, I am not at all saying Bin Laden's actions were godly or anything other than evil. I am not saying that God approves his terror or hate, or even that Bin Laden shouldn't have been forcibly stopped from doing what he was doign. But that does not change the fact that a tragic end to a tragic life ought to give us more reason to repent and mourn than hoot and holler.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


"Her children rise up and call her blessed." Proverbs 31:28

Heaven had a celebration today, as it should have because today heaven welcomed a great woman.

I met Margaret Chambers back in 2001 when I began making frequent trips to South Carolina and to Greenville First Wesleyan Church. In fact, other than the teens there, I think Dennis and Margaret Chambers were the first people I met in Greenville. At that time, Margaret had been battling cancer but was then in remission.

When I moved to Greenville less than a year after we first met, Dennis and Margaret welcomed me into their home to live with them for two months until I got married. I always said that they were like my second parents. And they were wonderful second parents.

I remember sitting on the couch watching movies with them some nights. Margaret would usually end up turning in to bed first, while Dennis fell asleep in the recliner.

I remember Margaret had gotten my bedroom ready for me to come and stay and had it all set up nice and cozy. That's the way she was. Hospitality was one of her strong points. And that bed was honestly the most comfortable bed I had ever slept in.

Dennis and Margaret's daughter Beth, who is my age, was set to get married a few months after me so it was an exciting time of wedding planning and dresses and family. I remember even before then, Margaret couldn't wait to be a grandma one day. She even had a crib and some baby items already to go! I always knew Margaret would make a wonderful grandma. She was just that way.

Margaret had a very cute, country inspired house. She collected apples and her kitchen was decorated with many different apple trinkets and decor. She was also a great cook. She made a breakfast casserole to die for!

I remember a funny incident one breakfast morning. It was a Saturday morning and we all had a lazy start to the day. Margaret had made everyone french toast and we were eating it in the living room on our TV trays. They didn't have any orange juice, so she brought me a glass of milk to drink. As I began to drink it, I realized it was, um, a little past the expiration date most likely. However, she had gone to so much trouble to make us such a nice breakfast and make everyone feel warm and welcome, that I didn't have the heart to say anything. So I just drank it. Well, about a week later we were driving in her car together somewhere and she said, "I just have to tell you something. I was cleaning out the refrigerator and I realized that milk I gave you was not good anymore! I'm so sorry I gave that to you!" I had to come clean at that point. Good thing it was skim milk or it could have been a lot worse.

Margaret also loved the youth in the church. Sometimes there tends to be a split between the generations but that was not so with Margaret Chambers. The teens loved her just as much as she loved them. As a youth leader, that was so nice to see. In fact, we remodeled the youth room during the time I was there and had sort of a "grand opening" ceremony and invited the church congregation to stop by and see the renovations. During that ceremony we dedicated the room to Margaret and had a plaque made with her name on it that went on the door. She was so surprised and humbled by it, as was true Margaret fashion. She would have never wanted to draw attention to herself but was honored by the sentiment.

After I moved away from South Carolina, I still kept in touch with Margaret from time to time. And whenever I found my way back to the area, Margaret was always the first person I wanted to see. I didn't always have time to visit with all of my friends, but I never missed visiting Margaret. She also let me bunk up in my old room several times on my way through town.

Margaret Chambers will certainly be missed by so many people as she had the ability to touch people with her warmth and generosity wherever she went. I'm not sure there could ever be a bad word said about Margaret Chambers. She was an amazing, Godly woman who embodied the love of Christ in every area of her life.

I love you Margaret. Enjoy your time face to face with your Savior. I can only imagine what you are experiencing right now. I miss you. One day we will see each other again.

My Utmost...Part 2

I recently finished reading a biography of the life of Oswald Chambers by David McCasland titled Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God. His life was so inspiring and the wisdom that the Lord supplied to him so great. I am taking some time to write out some of my favorite parts of the book.

  • [Chambers thought his ministry was to be through art, however the doors seemed to be closing...] The tug-of-war in Oswald's heart intensified as the days grew shorter and the leaves of autumn released their grip on the branches to which they had held so tightly. Was that what Oswald needed to do? Was he holding on to a vision that he must now release? ... Chambers prayed aloud, alternately thanking God and pleading with Him to make His way plain. He wanted to serve Him in art, to go where others could not or would not take the gospel of Jesus Christ. But the way seemed blocked and now, perhaps forbidden. "Oh God," he pleaded, "make Thy way plain to me."

  • A November gathering of the Christian Union brought Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission, to the University of Edinburgh. After attending the meeting Chambers wrote: "Hudson Taylor said last night that Our Lord's words 'Have faith in God' really mean 'Have faith in the faithfulness of God,' not in your own faithfulness." Letting go was an expression of trust, but not the end of the struggle...

  • A few days later, Cameron [an old friend] took Chambers aside and said, "If you get permission to speak to my ploughman about his soul, do so." Oswald expressed surprise that Cameron had not spoken to the man himself, because he had watched the old farmer speak about Jesus to all sorts of people. "My laddie," Cameron replied, "if you don't know what the permission of the Holy Ghost is in talking to a soul about salvation, you know nothing about the Holy Ghost."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Utmost... Part 1

Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) was born in Scotland and spent much of his boyhood there. His ministry of teaching and preaching took him for a time to the United States and Japan. The last six years of his life were spent as principal of the Bible Training College in London, and as chaplain to British Commonwealth troops in Egypt during World War I. After his death, the books which bear his name were compiled by his wife from her own verbatim shorthand notes of his talks.

Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God by David McCasland

I find myself very inspired and moved when I read Oswald Chamber's devotional My Utmost for His Highest. Although I found out recently that it was his wife, Biddy who actually compiled his lectures and sermons to publish the book. A friend of mine loaned me Chambers' biography and it was a really great read. I think reading his daily devotionals will mean even more to me now that I know his story.

I would like to share here just some of the things I took away from the book. I have quite a few pages earmarked which is why I titled this post "Part 1." There is no telling how many "parts" there will be by the time I am done. The following words are taken directly from the book and are not my own.

  • [at Oswald's funeral] ...she [Biddy] closed her eyes and saw Oswald, a few months before... They had just visited their friend suffering from typhoid fever and lying near death in a hospital. Biddy had said, "I wonder what God is going to do." Between brushstrokes, Oswald had replied, "I don't care what God does. It's what God is that I care about."

  • "It takes me a long while to realize that God has no respect for anything I bring Him. All He wants from me is unconditional surrender."

  • Diary, 26 April 1896: The Holy Spirit must anoint me for the work, fire me, and so vividly convince me that such and such a way is mine to aim at, or I shall not go, I will not, I dare not; ...No man by mere high human wisdom would dare undertake a step for Jesus' sake unless he knows that the Holy Spirit has directly spoken to him; and until He comes, I shall not go. Here is the lamb and the wood, but where is the fire? Nothing but the fire of the most Holy Spirit of God can make the offering holy and unblamable and acceptable in His sight.

I'll leave it at that today. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dirty Clothes Alert

"...Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:20-24

My boys have a habit of leaving their dirty clothes laying on the floor when they're getting dressed in the morning or getting in the tub. I have a famous phrase that I say when I walk by.

"Dirty clothes alert! Dirty clothes alert!" I exclaim.

It's cute because now they both say it when they're picking up their clothes to take them to the hamper. I wish I had an audio clip to link here because they are so cute saying it in their little boy voices.

In my Sunday School class, we are doing a study called Changed Into His Image by Jim Berg. The lesson we are on now is called "The Evil Within." He uses a tea bag illustration to talk about how how we all have a sin nature. We don't sin because someone else made us sin. In the same way, no one can make you angry. No one can make you joyous. Matthew 15:18-19 says, "But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.' For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false, testimony, slander."

Using a tea bag as an example, Berg illustrates how when you place a tea bag into a cup of water, the water is not what creates the taste. It simply draws out the flavor from the tea bag. Circumstances and/or other people do not make us angry, bitter, jealous, etc. They simply draw out the evil from within our sinful hearts.

I was thinking about this the other night because of something that the Lord revealed about the evil within my own heart. I don't want to feel the way I do about this particular circumstance. Even though I feel like there are some things I should be offended by, I was holding onto it and it was draining me. I am tired of holding onto it. In effect, I was being held in bondage to it by not relinquishing it to God. Sooner or later, He will make everything good. He alone will right all wrongs.

I started to confess this darkness of heart that the Lord had revealed to me to Him in prayer. As I was praying, a beautiful picture came to my mind. It was early in the evening on Easter Sunday. The images of the Resurrection were still fresh in my mind.

All of a sudden, I imagined myself nailing this bitterness of heart to the Cross. I imagined it being buried in the tomb. On the third day, I imagined myself walking out of the tomb victorious with Christ while my old dirty clothes remained buried in the tomb. The clothes didn't disappear. They were still there. But I had victory over them because Christ defeated them through His death on the Cross. While they didn't just go away, I now had power over them because I am a daughter of the King. I think sometimes it's important to see that the clothes are still there because if we couldn't, then we might not remember why the Resurrection was important.

O victory in Jesus, my Savior, Forever!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Remember When...

I don't remember if my house was always clean growing up. I do remember my dad taking me out on "dates." I remember my mom making these little scavenger hunt games for my sister and I while she was at work and we were home alone. I remember playing with my childhood best friends, Sara and Angie, in the back yard. I remember playing with dolls with my sister. We used to have so many dolls lined up on our beds at night that we had to end up sleeping on the very edge! I remember going camping at Jellystone campground with my family. I remember my dad dressing up as Yogi Bear on those trips. I remember my dad pulling me around the house on a big blanket. I remember my mom teaching me how to make tacos. It may have been there, but I don't remember the Sweet Smell of PineSolTM.

I have alluded several times in my blog to one of my favorite devotionals from Proverbs 31 Ministries. Well, this morning it was sent again so I thought I would share the entire thing because it offers such great perspective.

The Sweet Smell of PineSolTM

T. Suzanne Eller

"Jesus said let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14

I admit it. I'm the world's worst at preserving photos. I have boxes of photos stacked in various cubbyholes. I tried to organize the pictures once. I divided them and placed them in large envelopes. My next step was to put them in albums. They are still in envelopes - stacked in a box.

My children, Melissa, Ryan, and Leslie are now in their 20's and newly married. The chances of me ever getting these precious memories organized are slim to none, but I'm realizing something powerful. Memories aren't limited to pictures.

Remember when, Mom? is a common phrase in my house now. We have become the hub, a privilege once reserved for my husband's parents. At holidays and special weekends, they drive up and unload luggage and pile into guest rooms. We laugh and reminisce a lot around the table. Remember when we went on treasure hunts in the pasture? Remember when you jumped on the bed and popped Ryan up in the air so high is scared you? Remember that yellow Slip-n-SlideTM?

I do remember. But I also remember a young mom with three little ones who worried that her house wasn't spotless when an unexpected guest showed up. I remember the angst of trying to do everything and the fatigue when my day ended before my chores did.

I also remember days that I threw caution to the wind and jumped on the bed, even though it might make others frown. I grabbed the shovel and gave the kids plastic buckets and we looked for old bottles and trinkets at the abandoned homestead nearby. We mixed dishwashing liquid and water and I laughed out loud as the kids flew like greased lightning across the yellow slippery slide.

Some of those memories are captured in that pre-digital age, but most were not. However, they are etched on the heart of my young adult children.

What they don't reminisce about is the sweet, sweet smell of PineSolTM. Whether my house was perfect or how it compared to others' is not even on their radar.

Why did I worry so?

Take a moment today and look past the clutter and the to-do list and be a child again. It might not be a picture perfect moment, but it will be a memory.

Dear Lord, time passes so fast. Slow me down. Let me enjoy the smallest pleasures. Let me play with my child instead of only knocking down a to-do list. Let me laugh with my teen instead of fussing at him. That you for sweet memories. Amen.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Narrow is the Road

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Matthew 7:13-14

Below is an expert from an article I read a while back that I found interesting. It was an article in the Fort Wayne Examiner titled "The Megachurch and the Myth of Christian Majority" written by Mark Turney and published on July 12th, 2010. This is not the entire article, just parts that I found interesting and thought provoking.

Christian America is obsessed with the megachurch. The pastor who shepherds a church with thousands of regular members is becoming the shaker and mover du jour, but is large attendance a proper criteria to legitimize a ministry?

The Hartford Institute has calculated that there are around fifty churches in the U.S. that have 10,000+ members. But large numbers doesn't necessarily mean that God endorses the teaching. Attendance might signify that the message is annointed, or it might merely be popular. Jesus was not always so popular.

Bigger is not always bad. Megachurches have budgets that are able to sponsor more missionaries than the average storefront church could afford, so the gospel efforts overseas sees an obvious advantage. And there is the double-edged sword of a TV spot; charasmatic preachers from all walks of life can spread the gospel to millions of viewers on the airwaves. [However], if these men fall, the crash hurts churches all over the nation. So why are believers so obsessed with numbers? Is there some sort of authenticity in having a large following? Does the Bible preach that a majority is a sign from him?

When God judged the earth, there was a minority of only eight people who were saved on the ark. It was a minority of three who escaped the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. When the Israelites sent out twelve spies to the Promised Land, it was a minority of two who came back with a favorable report. It was a minority of those who left Egypt who entered the Promised Land. It was a minority of 300 that God used to defeat the multitude of Midianites, the Amalekites, and the children of the East. David was a minority when he alone was willing to stand against Goliath and the host of Philistines.

Bigger does not necessarily mean better. There are fine congregations with less than fifty members, where the word is preached with power and conviction, where the members grow in discipleship and maturity, and there are tiny congregations that are cult-like and dangerous in their doctrine. There are megachurches that have seen adultery, embezzlement, and church splits, and there are huge congregations that walk the straight and narrow, who are mighty in word and worship.

Believers need to look past the glitter and glamour, past the showmanship, and look to see whether Jesus is taught in truth and glorified in lives. We need to focus on what God sees and not what we see in the flesh.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Embracing Suffering

"There was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'" 2 Corinthians 2:7-9

I was listening to Chris Fabry Live today on Moody radio, as I usually do on my drive home. He usually has a special guest on to talk about a new book or various practical issues. Today, he talked with Jeromy Deibler of the Christian music group, FFH.

The introduction on the program website states this: How do you embrace suffering? Chris talks with Jeromy Deibler of FFH about living with Multiple Sclerosis, black mold and how suffering has strengthened his faith. They also talk about Jesus' suffering on the Cross for you and for me.

I only heard the last 30 minutes or so of the interview, but it was excellent. If you have a chance to swing over to the website, I definitely recommend it. Click the link to listen to the broadcase from 4/19, hour 2.

Jeromy talked about being diagnosed with MS back in 2005 and how he has embraced suffering. He talked about how well meaning friends would talk to him about pain and suffering and sickness coming from the fall of man and from the devil and that they would "pray it out of" him. He explained to them that they were welcome to pray for him and pray that he would be healed of MS, but he has sensed something of God through all of this that he never did before. God has used his MS to draw him closer to Himself. He said that in the meantime, because of that he is going to embrace his suffering until God calls him out of it.

Jeromy talked about how he doesn't understand why our culture is so quick to run away from suffering. Jesus didn't. He never said it didn't hurt. But He knew He had to go through it.

My favorite part was what he said in the end. He talked about how his wife said she likes him better after MS than before. Not because of the disease but because of what God is doing in his heart and his life... in the midst of that process. He said they both want him to be "that guy" without MS. But if he won't be, then he said "keep the tag on me." He said he would wear the MS tag if he had to, as long as he could stay "that guy." The one with the changed heart and life.

I can so relate to that. I feel like my tag says "divorced/rejected." That was painful... The most painful thing I have ever had to go through in my life to this point. But I wouldn't trade who I am now for who I was before for even a second because God has done such a mighty work in my life. Although that trial and suffering was horrible and I prayed many times for God to take it away, I'm thankful for the way that God has brought ultimate good from it and revealed His power through my weakness.

This process of being continually changed into the image of God has been painful. But if suffering is what it took to bring me here, then every minute of it was worth it. I can see that having come through that particular suffering. Lord, I pray that You will help me to remember that when the next trial comes because we are guaranteed to have suffering in this world. If even your One and only Son had to suffer on a Cross for me, then I, too shall have to suffer on this earth. I Thessalonians 3:3 says that we are destined for trials. But praise God that there will come a day when there will be no more suffering and no more pain and the Lord will restore what the locusts have eaten away.

Praise You, Lord.

*Postscript: I have been reading Ecclesiastes for the past couple of days. I went to bed last night after writing this post and woke up and read just a few more verses in Ecclesiastes this morning when I woke up. I read this verse that is so fitting to this topic and to the theme of this blog, Living Malachi 3:3. It is Ecclesiastes 7:3. "Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us." (NLT).Wow. Such wisdom in Solomon's words. Sorrow and sadness do not feel better but without them, there would be no refining. Therefore sorrow actually is better than laughter.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dream Dream Dream

"When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought 'Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.'" Genesis 28:16

My plane landed last night. It didn't crash. It landed! I'm taking that as a good sign.

Oh, you didn't know I was traveling anywhere yesterday? Well, I didn't. Not exactly anyway. It was all a dream.

You see, I've been doing some dream work lately. There's a lot you can learn and understand about yourself through your dreams. Especially recurring dreams. It's important to pay special attention to things that occur over and over again in dreams. They symbolize something you need to deal with in waking life and will keep recurring in your dreams until they are dealt with. However, we dream in symbols because the unconscious mind is not organized like our waking minds are.

I have recurring dreams of plane crashes. I don't ever die in the crash, but they always crash. Sometimes they catch fire when they crash or split apart. I wonder if this is why I have a fear of flying? I will do it but I hate it. But you know what? Dreams about plane crashes are not really about airplanes at all. Flying is a dream symbol.

Can we physically fly in real life without an airplane? No. Symbols are unique to the dreamer but sometimes dreams about flying are linked to being out of touch with reality. Flying above real life. So I guess it's a good thing that my dreams are about the planes crashing. It makes sense when I think about it because for a long time I lived in the land of make believe... in a world of idealism. But in my dreams, I always crash back to the earth... the real world.

Although crashing isn't necessarily fun either, is it? I'm wondering about the circumstances in my life during the times of my plane crash dreams. Had things happened that forced me out of the land of ideals and into reality? That would be an interesting study.

Well, last night for the first time ever, my plane landed smoothly and I got off. Yippee! I'm taking this as progress of living in the real world. Now, the real world is not all peaches and cream. I think that's why I got on the airplane in the first place. I would prefer my peaches and cream. The real world is sometimes Rocky Road instead. In the real world, sometimes bad things happen to good people. Sometimes God doesn't bring the type of healing I would prefer. The real world doesn't always bring fairy tale endings to every circumstance. But we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him. It may just not always seem that way at the time. God is sovereign. His ways are not my ways, therefore I do not always understand them.

Just because I landed last night, I don't imagine that I will never get on an airplane in my dreams again. Sometimes it feels safer to be up in the air when the ground is shaking and our defenses naturally take us there because that's how they've always done it. And maybe that's okay for a time until the earth trembling calms down. As long as my plane doesn't stay in the air circling the airport forever I'm okay with climbing on board for a short trip while I'm waiting for the blinding rains to subside. As long as I don't stay there and am prepared for landing.

Dear Lord, thank you for teaching me truth in the innermost parts through dreaming. Thank you for giving me a mind to understand them and for teaching me who You created me to be in Your image. Thank you for my recurring dreams to show me the areas where You desire growth as I am being changed into Your image. I also thank you that you will carry this work of being transformed onto completion until the day of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Virtual Reality

"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:25

I had 223 facebook friends. Do I really have 223 friends? That's a lot of friends. Of those 223 friends, the number that I actually talk to in person or over the phone or ever get together with is drastically less. I was thinking about how in reality, I never talk to half of these friends. I see what they're up to on facebook and they see what I'm up to... but are we really friends? If we are really friends then why don't we ever spend time together? Why don't we ever speak to each other?

This morning I read a devotional by Renee Swope of Proverbs 31 Ministries. I could completely relate to what she wrote. Here is a little bit of it...

Do you ever catch yourself checking email repeatedly?

Yes! Yes I do! (this is me speaking...)

One morning, I checked my email as soon as I woke up. Then I made breakfast and checked it again. Had my devotional time and checked it again. Ran some errands and when I got home, checked it once more.

Now I admit, I have a thing about keeping white space in my inbox, but this was about more than managing emails.

I was going back for a reason. I sensed the Holy Spirit nudging me to pause and ask myself, "Why do you keep checking your email?"

I sat there and let my heart respond honestly. I wasn't sure if it was God or me answering, but my thoughts intertwined with His Spirit whispered: You keep coming back because your heart longs for connection with a friend.

Yet no matter how many times I checked email, it was never enough to satisfy my craving.

This is so me. I was thinking how with technology these days and the of rise social networking, it would seem that we have more ways to connect. Through facebook, we can find that long lost friend from 2nd grade or family we haven't seen in years. It seems like we should be more connected. So why don't I feel connected? With 223 friends, why do I still feel lonely sometimes?

In reality, I think technology sometimes makes us less connected because it's easier to follow someone on Twitter than to pick up the phone and plan a night out with that same friend who only lives five blocks away. I may know what Bobby Sue is doing because I can check out her status updates but still know very little about how she is actually doing because we never get together for that casual lunch, etc. I am so guity of this. Virtual reality.

My good friend, Joy and I have started getting together for lunch one Friday a month since we work near each other. I have it on my outlook calendar so I don't forget. Sure, we're friends on facebook and I can see what she's up to and look at her pictures of all the cool things she does. I enjoy that part of our friendship as well. But what I enjoy the most is when we get together in real life. Sometimes we'll also get together and take the kids to the library, etc but if life gets in the way, I know we'll still have that last Friday of the month to catch up again. That's because we are friends. Not virtual friends. Real friends. When we get together we can laugh and tell stories and also share thoughts of encouragement that just isn't the same through email. Every time we leave we always say, "This was so fun. We need to do this more often." It's just different than chatting with someone on email.

Renee Swope continued in her devotional...

My heart was craving more. God had revealed the source of my incessant email checking and shown me that I needed to fill the lonely place in my spirit with friends I could talk to and share life with - in person.

It was just what I needed: face-to-face, heart-to-heart, eye-to-eye connection and conversation.

I know friendships are not easy to build. They take time. And time is limited with lives that keep us so busy. But in this age of technology, it's important to evaluate things in our lives that create a false sense of connection like email, television, text messaging, and overboard activities.

Although these things are fine in moderation, they can't substitute real life relationships.

I had thought about deleting my facebook account. But then I felt like I would be swinging the pendulum to the other extreme. I think it's about finding balance.

Lord, I pray that I would allow You to fill the empty places where I am longing for connection. And I pray that you would help me to build friendships and real connections here around me and not give up meeting together, especially as the last days draw closer. I have always found it easier to connect through virtual reality than through real life connections... I pray that those scales would begin to balance themselves without extremes to either side and always with You, Lord as the center balancing agent. In Your Name, I pray. Amen.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Confidentiality vs Secrecy

"If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds." 2 John 1: 10-11

What is the difference between confidentiality and secrecy? This is the question that was posed to a group I met with earlier this week. Very thought provoking. I love thought provoking questions. As we talked about it, here were some of the things I came up with as the wheels on the bus continued to go round and round in my mind:

"A secret is more toxic with the ability to hurt someone." I was thinking of things like gossip and rumors. "Hey did you hear about..." I guess that was partially right. But what makes a secret toxic? Are all secrets toxic? What about when a couple finds out about the sex of their unborn baby and decides to keep it a secret from their friends and family until the baby is born. Would that really be considered toxic? Hmm... not really.

So then I came up with, "A secret is more one sided with person A telling a secret to person B and saying that person B cannot tell anyone. Sharing something in confidence is more agreed upon as a topic to discuss only between a certain number of people and not to be shared outside those boundaries." Well, that's partially right too, I suppose. But what about if a church member goes to talk to their pastor about cheating on their spouse. What is the pastor's responsibility then? Do they hold it in confidence, knowing the spouse not present has no idea what's happening? Or do they break confidence in effort to bring the actions to light? Is there a right answer to that question?

I think I also came up with a few more answers to the question but as I was sitting at work today, I came up with the "Aha!!!" answer.

I am in charge of timekeeping for about 120 employees at work. Sometimes as I am logging employee time away, I notice that certain employees commonly call in "sick" the day before their scheduled vacation or the day they are supposed to return. It is annoying but there is not a lot I can do about it other than log it in their timekeeping records and notify their direct supervisor if I notice a pattern of things like this happening often.

Yesterday I took the day off and spent the day at a water park with a good friend of mine. It was great fun. Today when I returned to work, I was going through the call-offs from yesterday and I started thinking. What if I had been at the water park yesterday and saw a co-worker there and then returned to work today to find that they had called in "sick." What would I do? I would probably wish that I hadn't seen them so that I could remain in ignorance. But if I really had seen them, I would have to document it.

I continued to develop the story in my mind. What if I not only saw them at the water park, what if they saw me as well and asked me not to say anything when I went back to work? What if they asked me to keep it a secret? What would I do in that instance?

That's when I realized what the difference between a secret and holding something in confidence is. If I kept the secret, I would now be sharing with that person in their deception. I would be just as guilty for not saying anything as the person who lied and called in sick.

A good friend of mine left her church recently when she and her husband started noticing subtle inconsistencies in the preaching as compared to Biblical Truth. Things that sounded good but didn't seem to line up Biblically. For those who did not know the Bible real well, they probably didn't even notice. The words sounded sweet. But it turned bitter in my friends' stomachs. Something just didn't seem quite right. It was not a small, dying church. Outwardly, it looked very much alive. They had all the latest modern technology, programs, recovery groups, etc. But inwardly, they were dead. My friend's husband went to speak to the pastor about it, hoping it wasn't true. Hoping that it was just a misunderstanding. However, the pastor only became defensive and the Sunday following preached in a diaper, a sermon about not complaining and mentioned my friends in his message, although not by name.

Could they have chosen to stay at the church? Sure. They had a lot of friends there. There were many programs. However, if they had chosen to stay after knowing what they knew, they would have been partners in the deception.

Sometimes ignorance really does seem like bliss. Choosing to see certainly won't make us popular. But it will lead to the road of righteousness. As Christians, we will have to make a lot of difficult choices. In Acts 5 when Sapphira chose not to reveal her husband's deception that she was fully aware of, she dropped dead. The Bible said that it was her husband who kept back part of the proceeds from selling a possession. But because she was aware of it and kept his secret, she became as guilty as he was for not taking a stand against sin.

Am I saying that we should choose to wear blinders so that we won't be held accountable for sin? Absolutely not. If we choose to be blind, then we may be easily led astray by false teaching. The Bible says we are to be self controlled and alert because our enemy is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

So this is what I have decided as my answer to the question posed in the group earlier. A secret = Your silence is taken as agreement if you don't speak up.